What is the Difference Between Tennis Elbow and Golfer's Elbow

difference between golfers elbow and tennis elbow
By Fara Rosenzweig

You don't need to play golf or tennis to experience tennis of golfer's elbow.

The fact is, any one can get one of these injuries really from anything, "It's basically an overuse injury that occurs at the tendon its commonly seen in these sports but really anyone who does repetitive movements at the wrist can develop this condition. Its also seen in mechanics, plumbers, carpenters, etc.," says Anna Munoz, betterbraces.com athletic trainer and product specialist.

Since the problem occurs from repetitive stress that can cause microscopic tears in the tissues, inflammation, swelling and pain around the elbow, many people think they have one or the other, but don't really know the exact difference. It's pretty simple: one injury affects the outside while the other affects the inside. Golfer's can experience tennis elbow and vice versa.

The Difference Between the Tennis and Golfer's Elbow

As mentioned above, the biggest difference is where you feel pain. Tennis elbow pain is felt on the outside of your elbow. Golfer's elbow pain is on the inside of your elbow. There are other conditions and injuries that can cause elbow pain, so it is best to visit your doctor for proper diagnosis and determine the most effective treatment.

Whether you play tennis and golf or not, here's the breakdown of the two.

What is Tennis Elbow?

tennis elbow pain outside

Tennis Elbow, or Lateral Epicondylitis, affects the outside of the elbow which is caused by repetitive wrist extension (repeating the same motions over and over again). This can create damage to the tendons of the forearm.

How Do You Get Tennis Elbow?

Despite the name, you can get tennis elbow without ever stepping on the court. If you take part in any activity that requires repetitive gripping, especially if you use the thumb and first two fingers, can cause to tennis elbow.

Experts say it's more common in those over 40 or participate in the similar activities:

  • Racquet Sports (tennis, squash or racquet ball)
  • Throwing Activities (baseball or football)
  • Weight Lifting
  • Raking/Gardening

Professions that are susceptible to Tennis Elbow:

  • Painters
  • Carpenters
  • Plumbers
  • Auto workers
  • Cooks

Tennis Elbow Symptoms

  • Pain when you try to grip something or lift and object
  • Discomfort when opening a door
  • Soreness when shaking one's hand
  • Difficulty to raise your hand or straighten your wrist
  • Tenderness in the bony knob on the outside of your elbow

What is Golfer's Elbow?

golfer's elbow pain inside

Golfer's Elbow, Medial Epicondylitis, affects the inside of the elbow that's caused by repetitive wrist flexion. The pain of Golfer's Elbow may spread to your forearm and wrist.

How Do You Get Golfer's Elbow?

On or off the course, you can experience pain in the elbow. If you take part in any activity that requires swinging, throwing or gripping, especially if you use your wrist or fingers.

Experts say it's more common in those over 40 or participate in the similar activities for more than two hours a day:

  • Golf
  • Racquet Sports (tennis, squash or racquet ball)
  • Throwing Activities (baseball, football, archery)
  • Fencing
  • Weight Lifting
  • Computer Use

Professions that are susceptible to Golfer's Elbow:

  • Painters
  • Construction Worker
  • Carpenters
  • Plumbers
  • Assembling-Line Workers
  • Cooks

The Treatment

Most cases of tennis and golfer's elbow are treated non-surgically, combining:

  • Rest
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Elbow bracing
  • Diet (certain foods can eliminate inflammation)

Surgery is usually done if pain has not subsided after 6 to 12 months of treatment that was recommended by your physician. Surgery for tennis and golfer's elbow removes damaged muscle tissue and reattaches healthy muscle tissue back to the bone. This is an outpatient surgery, and is followed up with rehab. Expected recovery time is roughly six months.

Prevention

Whether you participate in a sport or not, you can prevent further re-injury.

To prevent pain from work or day-to-day activities:

  • Wear proper bracing
  • Partake in massage therapy regularly
  • Give your body rest when needed

How to Continue Playing Sports?

If you participate in one of the sports mentioned above, have your physician or expert look at your equipment to make sure you're using the right gear. Have a coach or professional look at your form and technique. Work with your coach or physical therapist of stretches and exercises you can do to keep the tendons healthy. Always wear proper bracing for support and compression. Use ice and heat if you experience inflammation and swelling. And make sure to rest when needed.

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